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Poster: Lum Edwards Date: Jan 17, 2010 10:34am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Sets

Heres another obvious question thats likely been discussed but I wonder how the band decided what to play for each concert. How far ahead did they know what the final setlist would be?

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Poster: SkyDawg Date: Jan 17, 2010 10:57pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sets

Interesting challenge, so I set about to find a few relevant quotes from the band on the subject.

The band was legendary for not believing in setlists. Their attitude was most likely formed (or informed) by the chaos theory of the Acid Tests and LSD. Playing many recordings supports this. Those weren't always long, long tuning breaks between songs.... they can be heard discussing what to play next.

These are a couple of the quotes I found off the top of my head from Blair Jackson's fine book "Goin' Down The Road".

Bob Weir, interviewed by Blair Jackson 6/26/89

Jackson: "What sort of factors determine your choice of songs from night to night...?"
Weir: "Well, some of it is just what tunes are up in the rotation. And some of it is how it feels like it will all fall together best. The first set we'll usually set the first two or three songs and then go on from there. Usually we have a little huddle before the second set and try to plan out the first half of the second set, based on how it's gone so far-how the night feels-and what the singers feel like singing. Often enough, though, that all gets tossed aside. Sometimes we don't even start with the song we just agreed on. [Laughs] Somebody gets a different idea once we're on the stage. And sometimes what seemed like a good idea is a good idea, and we'll do it like we planned it.."

Jerry Garcia interviewed by Blair Jackson 10/28/88

Jackson: "Do you generally chat with the other band members during this time? (Pre-show)
Garcia: "Sure, because they come up onstage at one time or another, and we'll all eventually end up onstage, of course. If we're gonna talk, we generally talk right before we go on. Bob hangs out near where I do. We have the guitar corner. Everybody else has got their little quadrant. This has evolved over the years. It's sheltered just enough so that if we have to talk about what we're going to play or something like that, it's easy to do that. Usually on the first set anyway, Weir and I try to remember which of us went first last show, so it's that ongoing thing. Eventually I hope we can dispense with some of the regular things about our show that have gotten to be so predictable, I don't know if that'll ever happen or not."

Jackson: "Do you ever discuss what's gone on in the previous set at the break?"
Garcia: "Nah. What's the point? It's over. We never discuss the previous anything. We're not likely to do that set again, so what could we learn from discussing it?"

The truth can be found on countless recordings. For example in the middle of set 2 on 2/28/69. The band had just played an amazing sequence of (That's It For The) Other One>Dark Star>St Stephen>The Eleven>Death Don't Have No Mercy. Before they realize it they find themselves at the end of a miracle show with time left over!
Jerry then tells the crowd that " Okay, well.. yes well,.. Aw, oh, okay, we've gotta think of something to do... okay?"

Bobby: "One with a tympani solo in it!"
Phil: "Crocodile!!"
The band then launched into a final set ending Alligator>Drums>Jam>Caution>Feedback>AWBYG!

On another show, in 1977, Bobby tells the crowd how "we all just came up with a plan" before launching into some amazing second set. All of you 1977 fans, help me out here, which show was that? I just can't remember what show it was. I think it was a "Playin'">>>jam .. I think it was either at Winterland or the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.

There is (was) nothing like a Grateful Dead concert!

This post was modified by SkyDawg on 2010-01-18 06:57:26

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Jan 18, 2010 8:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sets

I always think is was funny, how they would talk about trying to " dispense with some of the regular things about our show that have gotten to be so predictable", and then just falling back into the same pattern . I recall an interview with Hornsby , in Relix , about his time with the Dead, and how much resistance he would get when he would try to shake things up a little , out of the comfort zone.
The short term unpredictability , brought out by the way they choose songs, created a larger scale predictability . Advantages, and disadvantages .
One of the ways Phil ( and Bobby?) comes up with such interesting set lists , is to map them out before hand . Now this takes away from a little of the spontaneous ."seat of you pants" feel, but you avoid some of the, "Other One>Wharf Rat>S. Mag." end of show , song selection ( I deliberately chose songs I love ) that you could guess in your sleep .

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Poster: Lum Edwards Date: Jan 18, 2010 6:42am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sets

>>>There is (was) nothing like a Grateful Dead concert!<<<

Very Nice post and I agree. Only wished I could have seen them more than twice (early 80's)

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Poster: Dhamma1 Date: Jan 17, 2010 2:08pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sets

Lum -

If you can find a copy, you will enjoy reading Dennis McNally's history of the band
and find that many of your questions are answered in it.

As for this one, in general they did not plan in advance, for much of their career. Somewhere, maybe in McNally, Brent recalls his amazement at being asked to show up and play live without any set list at all, which is how the others had been performing for well over a decade.

Maybe someone else can weigh in with relevant quotes here. I have to dash out the door just now.

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Poster: Lum Edwards Date: Jan 18, 2010 6:40am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sets

Thanks for the link, I do need to read that book. It let me see the first 5 pages. Sounds like a very interesting read.